Thursday, August 7, 2008

a writing exercise with series potential

Last weekend when I was out for a walk across the street, I ran into and was lucky enough to chat with Bruce Coville for about ten minutes. It was a great talk, and the guy is brilliant...anyhow, we got to talking about how important the first couple pages are, and even more so, the first paragraph. He recommended to me that I should pick up a bunch of books and read their first paragraphs, or better yet! write them down, so they stick better in your memory. So today I just went and checked out a few books at random and copied down there first paragraphs, then at the end of the list, I wrote out mine, just to see how it stood up. I will let you be the judge, as I have copied and pasted them all here for your reading pleasure/learning experience (I know you'll all take a vast amount of knowledge from the little piece that I've included of my own work. No? Okay, fine.) I'm going to try to do a few of these every couple days or so, so if you enjoy looking at them, let me know, and I'll continue to post them!

The Monster’s Ring, by Bruce Coville
Russell Crannaker glanced up and down the alley.
He was alone.
Perfect. He could practice in peace.
Putting up his arms, Russell staggered forward. He rolled back his eyes so only the whites were showing. Then he began to moan.
Fantastic! He was going to be great as Frankenstein’s monster–the best ever.
Russell relaxed and grinned. Halloween should be all right this year after all. He moaned and lurched forward again.
Frankenstein. Boy, would he love to actually be Frankenstein’s monster for a while. Then he’d show that Eddie a thing or two. He could see it now: Eddie kneeling in front of him, whining, begging, pleading for mercy.

The Giver, by Lois Lowry
It was almost December, and Jonas was beginning to be frightened. No. Wrong word, Jonas thought. Frightened meant that deep, sickening feeling of something terrible about to happen. Frightened was the way he had felt a year ago when an unidentified aircraft had overflown the community twice. He had seen it both times. Squinting toward the sky, he had seen the sleek jet, almost a blur at its high speed, go past, and a second later heard the blast of sound that followed. Then one more time, a moment later, from the opposite direction, the same plane.

The Snow Spider, by Jenny Nimmo
Gwyn’s Grandmother gave him five gifts for his birthday, his ninth birthday. They were very unusual gifts, and if Gwyn had not been the kind of boy he was, he might have been disappointed.

The Oracle Betrayed, by Catherine Fisher
The Procession was at least halfway down the terraces before Mirany stopped trembling enough to walk properly. It was hard to see clearly through the eye slits; the mask was too big, the slits too far apart. And in the sweltering heat, the dust rising in clouds, the flies, the shimmering mirage of the road, everything was bewildering. She flipped hair out of her eyes, tight with dread, her whole body sheened with sweat. Just as the back strap on her sandal started to chafe, the Procession shuffled to a stop. They had reached the Oracle.

Peter and the Starcatchers, by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson
The tired old carriage, pulled by two tired old horses, rumbled onto the wharf, its creaky wheels bumpety-bumping on the uneven planks, waking Peter from his restless slumber. The carriage interior, hot and stuffy, smelled of five smallish boys and one largish man, none of whom was keen on bathing.

Island of the Blue Dolphins, by Scott O’Dell
I remember the day the Aleut ship came to our island. At first it seemed like a small shell afloat on the sea. Then it grew larger and was a gull with folded wings. At last in the rising sun it became what it really was–a red ship with two red sails.

Holes, by Louis Sachar
There is no lake at Camp Green Lake. There once was a very large lake here, the largest lake in Texas. That was over a hundred years ago. Now it is just a dry, flat wasteland.
There used to be a town of Green Lake as well. The town shriveled and dried up along with the lake, and the people who lived there.

Artemis Fowl, by Eoin Colfer
The Prologue: How does one describe Artemis Fowl? Various psychiatrists have tried and failed. The main problem is Artemis’s own intelligence. He bamboozles every test thrown at him. He has puzzled the greatest medical minds, and sent many of them gibbering to their own hospitals.
The first chapter: Ho Chi Minh City in the summer. Sweltering by anyone’s standards. Needless to say, Artemis Fowl would not have been willing to put up with such discomfort if something extremely important had not been at stake. Important to the plan.

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, by C.S. Lewis
Once there were four children whose names were Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy. This story is about something that happened to them when they were sent away from London during the way because of the air-raids. They were sent to the house of an old Professor who lived in the heart of the country, ten miles from the nearest post office. He had no wife and he lived in a very large house with a housekeeper called Mrs. Macready and three servants. (Their names were Ivy, Margaret and Betty, but they do not come into the story much.) He himself was a very old man with shaggy white hair which grew over most of his face as well as on his head, and they liked him almost at once; but on the first evening when he came out to meet them at the front door he was so odd-looking that Lucy (who was the youngest) was a little afraid of him, and Edmund (who was the next youngest) wanted to laugh and had to keep on pretending he was blowing his nose to hide it.

Bridge to Terabithia, by Katherine Paterson
Ba-room, ba-room, ba-room, baripity, baripity, baripity, baripity–Good. His dad had the pickup going. He could get up now. Jess slid out of bed and into his overalls. He didn’t worry about a shirt because once he began running he would be hot as popping grease even if the morning air was chill, or shoes because the bottoms of his feet were by now as tough as his worn-out sneakers.

Wolf Brother, by Michelle Paver
Torak woke with a jolt from a sleep he’d never meant to have.
The first had burned low. He crouched in the fragile shell of light and peered into the looming blackness of the Forest. He couldn’t see anything. Couldn’t hear anything. Had it come back? Was it out there now, watching him with its hot, murderous eyes?

The Dark is Rising, by Susan Cooper
“Too many!” James shouted, and slammed the door behind him.
“What?” said Will.
“Too many kids in this family, that’s what. Just too many.” James stood fuming on the landing like a small angry locomotive, then stumped across to the window-seat and stared out at the garden. Will put aside his book and pulled up his legs to make room. “I could hear all the yelling,” he said, chin on knees.

Double Identity, by Margaret Peterson Haddix
My mother is crying.
She is trying to do it silently, but from the backseat of the car I can see her shoulders heaving up and down, her entire body racked by sobs. I look out the window at the darkness flowing past our car, and all the pinpoints of light on the horizon seem far, far away. My mother always cries, now. In the beginning, back in the summer, I used to try to comfort her, used to ask her–stupidly–”Is something wrong?” And she’d force her face into some tortured mask of fake happiness, her smile trembling, her eyes still brimming with tears: “Oh no, dear, nothing’s wrong. Would you like some milk and cookies?”

The Keys to the Kingdom, Book One: Mister Monday, by Garth Nix
They had tried to destroy the Will, but that proved to be beyond their power. So they broke it, in two ways. It was broken physically, torn apart, with the fragments of heavy parchment scattered across both space and time. It was broken in spirit because not one clause of it had been fulfilled.

The Bolertia Tales, Book One: The Quest to Solcrest, by Tyler McBroom
No upcoming magic carpet races, no Vernazza Entrance Exam results, and no dead Lorelei. Rigg’s thoughts concentrated fully on the excitement that lay before him, and the fun he knew he would soon be having. He had reached his twelfth birthday, and for the most part life was pretty good. His parents might not always pay attention to him, but he had a loving younger sister and some really close friends. Some time soon he would be finding out how well he did on his magic tests, and after he passed those he would be going to the Vernazza School of Magic. And now that he was twelve, he would finally get to compete in a magic carpet race.


The Bill Cochran said...

Hey Tyler - it's Bill from SCBWI. Just stopping by as I've seen your posts on all the other cool kids blogs.

Cool post, and very, very useful as I was literally just rewriting the first chapter of my attempt at, well, a chapter/mid grade book.

Great to meet you and hope to stay in touch on the blogosphere until the next conference...

And good luck! Keep on keepin' on!

Hardygirl said...

Hi Tyler!
Great post, and I love the beginning of your book. I've posted my notes from Sara Pennypacker's SCBWI talk on "Great Beginnings" on our blog (it would be good to read along with your post).

Hi to The Bill Cochran, as well!!
Sarah Frances

Katie said...


I loved this post! You were a posting machine for a few days and now you stopped?! Where are you?


I'm gettin' ready to update ours :-)